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無分於善惡，可推移者，謂中人也，不善不惡，須教成者也。故孔子曰：“中人以上可以語上也；中人以下，不可以語上也 。”告子之以決水喻者，徒謂中人，不指極善極惡也。孔子曰：“性相近也，習相遠也。”夫中人之性，在所習焉。習善而為善，習惡 而為惡也。至於極善極惡，非複在習。故孔子曰：“惟上智與下愚不移。”性有善不善，聖化賢教，不能複移易也。孔子，道德之祖，諸子 之中最卓者也，而曰“上智下愚不移”，故知告子之言，未得實也。
Chapter XXXII. On Original Nature (Pên-hsing).
Natural feelings and natural disposition are the basis of human activity, and the source from which morals and music spring. Morals impede, and music checks the excesses of original nature. The natural disposition may be humble, modest, and yielding. The moral laws are enforced with a view to generalizing such praiseworthy qualities. The natural feelings may be good or bad, cheerful or angry, mournful or merry. Music is made in order to make every one behave respectfully. What morals and music aim at are the natural feelings and natural disposition.
The ancient literati and scholars who have written essays have all touched upon this question, but could not give a satisfactory answer. The philosopher Shih Tse1 of the Chou time held that human nature is partly good and partly bad, that, if the good nature in man be cultivated and regulated, his goodness increases, and if his bad nature be, his badness develops. Thus in the human heart there would be two conflicting principles, and good and evil depend on cultivation. Accordingly, Shih Tse composed a chapter on cultivation.
Fu Tse Chien, Ch`i Tiao K`ai; and Kung Sun Ni Tse2 also discuss this subject in very much the same way as Shih Tse, all declaring that nature is partly good, partly bad.
Mencius wrote a chapter on the goodness of nature, 3 contending that all men are originally good, and that the bad ones are corrupted by the world. Men, he says, are created by heaven and earth; they are all provided with a good nature, but when they grow up and come into contact with the world, they run wild, and are perverted, and their wickedness increases daily. According to Mencius' opinion, man, when young, would be invariably good.
Wei Tse4 said, "I have formerly remarked, that as a child the prince (Chou) did not show off."
When Chou was a child, Wei Tse observed that he had no good character. Inclined to evil, he did not eclipse the common people, and when he had grown up, he caused endless revolutions. Therefore Wei Tse's remark.
When Yang-Shê Shih-Wo5 was born and Lady Shu saw him, and upon entering the hall heard him cry, she went back and said, "His voice is that of a wolf. He has a reckless character, destitute of all affection. But for him the Yang Shê family would not perish." Afterwards she declined to see him. When he had grown up, Ch`i Shêng made a rebellion, in which Shih-Wo took part. The people killed him, and the Yang Shê family was extinguished thereby. 6
Chou's wickedness dated from his childhood, and Shi-Wo's rebellion could be foretold from the new-born's whine. As a newborn child has not yet had any intercourse with the world, who could have brought about his perversion?
Tan Chu was born in Yao's palace, and Shang Chün in Shun's hall. Under the reign of these two sovereigns, the people house by house were worthy of being entrusted with fief. Those with whom the two might have mixed, were most excellent, and the persons forming the suit of the two emperors, were all most virtuous. Nevertheless, Tan Chu was haughty, and Shang Chün brutal. Both lacked imperial decorum to such a degree, that they were set up as a warning to coming generations.
Mencius judges men by the pupils of their eyes. If the heart be bright, says he, the pupils are clear, if it be dark, the pupils are dim. 7 However, the clearness and dimness of the eyes reaches back to as far as man's birth. These differences are due to the different fluids received from heaven. The eyes are not clear during childhood, or dimmed, when man grows, and associates with other people. Nature at first is spontaneous, goodness and badness are the outcome of different dispositions. What Mencius says about original nature is not true.
Yet something may have contributed to the idea of the goodness of nature. A man may be benevolent or just, it is the wonderful proficiency of his nature, as in his locomotion and movements he shows his extraordinary natural ability. But his colour, whether white or black, and his stature, whether long or short, remain unchanged until old age and final death. Such is his heavenly nature. 8
Everybody knows that water, earth, and other substances differ in their natures, but people are not aware that good and evil are due to different natural dispositions. A one year old baby is not inclined to violent robbery. After it has grown up, its greed may gradually develop, and lead to ferocity and aggressiveness.
Kao Tse, a contemporary of Mencius denies the difference of goodness and badness in nature, comparing it to flowing water which led to the east, runs eastward, and to the west, westward. As water cannot be divided according to its eastern or western direction, a division of men into good and bad ones is untenable. 9 Therefore Kao Tse asserts that human nature is similar to the nature of water. Such being the case, water may well be used as an illustration.
Nature is as metal is metal, and wood, wood. A good man has a natural bent towards goodness, and a wicked man to wickedness. Man is endowed by heaven with a spontaneous mind, and has received a uniform disposition. 10 Therefore portents appear at the time of birth, from which man's goodness and badness can be discovered.
People with whom no difference of good and bad exists, and who may be pushed one or the other way, are called average people. Being neither good nor bad, they require instruction in order to assume a certain type. Therefore Confucius says that with people above the average one can discourse on higher subjects, but that with those under the average one cannot do so. 11Kao Tse's comparison with channelled water applies only to average people, but does not concern extremely good or extremely bad persons. According to Confucius people are nearly related to one another by character, but become very different by habit. 12 The character of average people is the work of habit. Made familiar with good, they turn out good, accustomed to evil, they become wicked. Only with extremely good, or extremely bad characters habit is of no avail. Therefore Confucius holds that only highly cultured and grossly ignorant people cannot be changed. 13 Their natures being either good or otherwise, the influence of sages, and the teaching of wise men is impotent to work a change. Since Confucius, the Nestor in wisdom and virtue, and the most eminent of all philosophers, asserts the unchangeability of highly cultured and grossly ignorant people, we may conclude that Kao Tse's sayings are not correct.
However, there is some foundation for Kao Tse's view. The Shiking14 says:---"What can that admirable man be compared to?" The Tso-chuan answers:---"He is like boiled silk; dyed with indigo it becomes blue, coloured with vermilion it turns crimson." Leading water eastward or westward is like dyeing silk blue or red. Tan Chu and Shang Chün were also imbued with Yao and Shun's doctrines, but Tan Chu remained haughty, and Shang Chün cruel. The extremely bad stuff they were made of did not take the blue or the red colour.
In opposition to Mencius, Sun Ching15 wrote a chapter on the wickedness of nature, supposing human nature to be wicked, and its goodness to be ficticious. Wickedness of nature means to say that men, when they are born, have all a bad nature, and ficticiousness that, after they have grown up, they are forcibly induced to do good. According to this view of Sun Ching, among men, even as children, there are no good ones.
Chi as a boy amused himself with planting trees. When Confucius could walk, he played with sacrificial vessels. When a stone is produced, it is hard, when a fragrant flower comes forth, it smells. All things imbued with a good fluid develop accordingly with their growth. He who amused himself with tree planting, became the minister of T`ang,16 and the boy who played with sacrificial vessels, the sage of Chou. Things with a fragrant or stony nature show their hardness and fragrance. Sun Ching's opinion is, therefore, incompatible with truth, yet his belief in the wickedness of nature is not quite without foundation:
A one year old baby has no yielding disposition. Seeing something to eat, it cries, and wants to eat it, and beholding a nice thing, it weeps, and wants to play with it. After it has grown up, its propensities are checked, and its wishes cut down, and it is compelled to do good.
Liu Tse Chêng17 objects that in this case heaven would have no fluid. Where would the first good deed come from, if the Yang and the Yin principles and good and evil were not counterbalancing each other?
Lu Chia18 says that, when heaven and earth create men, they predispose them in favour of propriety and justice, that man can see what for he has received life and act accordingly, which accordance is called virtue. Lu Chia thinks that the human mind is turned towards propriety and justice, and that man also can discover what for he has come into life. However, the right-minded do good of their own accord without waiting for this discovery, and the evil-minded disregard propriety and defy justice, although they see quite clearly in the matter. It is impossible that justice should win them to the good cause. Thus the covetous can speak very well on disinterestedness, and the rebels on good government, robber Chê19 condems theft and Chuang Chiao20 stigmatises lawlessness. They have a clear conception of themselves, and know how to talk on virtue, but owing to their vicious character they do not practise what they say, and the good cause derives no benefit from it. Therefore Lu Chia's opinion cannot be considered the right one.
Tung Chung Shu21 having read Mencius and Sun Ching's writings, composed himself an essay on natural feelings and natural disposition, in which he says:---Heaven's great principles are on one side the Yin, on the other the Yang. The great principles in man are on one side the natural feelings, on the other natural disposition. The disposition comes out of the Yang, the feelings out of the Yin. The Yin fluid is base, the Yang fluid humane. Who believes in the goodness of nature sees the Yang, who speaks of its wickedness the Yin. That is, Tung Chung Shu means to say that Mencius saw only the Yang, and Sun Ching the Yin.
The opinions of the two philosophers may well thus be distinguished, but as regards human nature, such a distinction does not hold good. Goodness and badness are not divided in this way. Natural feelings and natural disposition are simultaneously produced by the Yin and the Yang combined, either more or less copiously. Precious stones growing in rocks are partly of a single colour, partly multicoloured, how can natural feelings or natural disposition growing in the Yin and Yang be either exclusively good? What Tung Chung Shu says is not correct.
Liu Tse Chêng teaches that the natural disposition is formed at birth, that it is inherent to the body and does not come out, that on the other hand natural feelings arise from the contact with the world, and manifest themselves outwardly. That which manifests itself outwardly, he calls Yang, that which does not appear, he calls Yin Thus Liu Tse Chêng submits that the natural disposition is inherent to the body, but does not come out, whereas the natural feelings unite with external things, and appear outwardly. Therefore he designates them as Yang. The natural disposition he designates as Yin, because it does not appear, and has no communication with the outer world. Liu Tse Chêng's identification of natural feelings with Yang and disposition with Yin leaves the origin of these qualities quite out of the question, insomuch as the Yin and the Yang are determined in an off-hand way by outward manifestation and non-appearance. If the Yang really depends on outward manifestation, then it may be said that natural disposition also comes into contact with external things. "In moments of haste, he cleaves to it, and in seasons of danger he cleaves to it." 22 The compassionate cannot endure the sight of suffering. This non-endurance is au effluence of benevolence. Humility and modesty are manifestations of natural disposition. These qualities have all their external objects. As compassion and modesty manifest themselves outwardly, I am afraid that the assertion that natural disposition is something inside without any connection with external things, cannot be right. By taking into consideration merely outwardness and inwardness, Yin and Yang, without reference to the goodness and badness of nature, the truth cannot be known. As Liu Tse Chêng has it, natural disposition would be Yin, and natural feelings Yang, but have men not good as well as bad passions?
From Mencius down to Liu Tse Chêng the profoundest scholars and greatest thinkers have propounded a great many different views without, however, solving the problem of original nature in a satisfactory way. The arguments of the philosophers Shih Tse, Kung Sun Ni Tse, and others of the same class 23 alone contain much truth. We may say that it is easy to understand the subject, but the difficulty is to explain the principle. Style and diction may be ever so brilliant and flowery, 24 and the conceptions and arguments as sweet as honey, all that is no proof of their truth.
As a matter of fact, human natural disposition is sometimes good, and sometimes bad, just as human faculties can be of a high or of a low order. High ones cannot be low, nor low ones high. To say that human nature is neither good nor bad would be the same as to maintain that human faculties are neither high nor low. The original disposition which Heaven gives to men, and the destiny which it sends down, are essentially alike. By destiny men are honoured or despised, by nature good or bad. If one disputes the existence of goodness and badness in human nature, he might as well call in question that destiny makes men great or miserable.
The nature of the soil of the Nine Provinces 25 is different in regard to goodness and badness. It is yellow, red, or black, of superior, average, or inferior quality. The water courses are not all alike. They are limpid or muddy, and run east, west, north or southward. Man is endowed with the nature of Heaven and Earth, and imbued with the spirit of the Five Qualities. 26 He may be benevolent or just, it is the wonderful proficiency of his nature. In his locomotion and movements he may be majestic or agile, it is his extraordinary natural ability. But his colour, whether white or black and his stature, whether long or short, remain unchanged until old age and final death. Such is heavenly nature. 27
I am decidedly of opinion that what Mencius says on the goodness of human nature, refers to people above the average, that what Sun Ching says on its badness, refers to people under the average, and that, if Yang Hsiung teaches that in human nature goodness and badness are mixed together, he means average people. Bringing people back to the unchanging standard and leading them into the right way, one may teach them. But this teaching alone does not exhaust human nature.
1. His full name is Shih Shê. He was one of the seventy disciples of Confucius and a writer. The Catalogue of the Han-shu chap. 30 mentions twenty-one chapters of his pen. Faber in his Doctrines of Confucius p. 29 states that the title of the lost work of Shih Shê was "yang-shu" , and that he is said to have been a disciple of Ch`i Tiao K`ai, whom vide.
2. All disciples of Confucius, whose writings were still extant during the Han dynasty, but are now lost. According to Liu Hsin's Catalogue Fu Tse Chien alias Fu Pu Ch`i wrote 16 chapters, Ch`i Tiao K`ai 12, and Kung Sun Ni Tse 28.
3. Mencius Bk. VI, Pt. I.
4. The Viscount of Wei, a kinsman of prince Chou i. e. Chou Hsin, the last emperor of the Shang dynasty, who lost the throne through his wickedness and tyrany (1154-1122 b.c.).
5. The Yang Shê family was very powerful in the Chin State. Lady Shu had married one Yang Shê and was thus related to Yang-Shê Shih-Wo.
6. This took place in the Chin State in 513 b.c.
7. Mencius Bk. IV, Pt. I, chap. XV.
8. The spiritual nature may be transformed, but not the physical one. Human nature is so wonderful, that even originally bad people may by much training become benevolent and just. Mencius seeing these wonderful results was misled into the belief that human nature was originally good.
9. Mencius Bk. VI, Pt. I, chap. II.
10. Either good or bad, not partly good and partly bad.
11. Analects II, 19.
12. Analects XVII, 2.
13. Analects XVII, 3.
14. Shiking I, Bk. IV, Ode IX, 2. Vid. above p. 374.
15. One of the Ten Philosophers, whose work has come down to us. He lived in the 3rd cent. b.c. His original surname Hsün --- hence Hsün Tse --- was changed into Sun under the reign of the Emperor Hsüan Ti of the Han dynasty, 73-48 b.c., whose personal name was Hsün. Cf. Edkins, "Siün King the Philosopher" in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Shanghai Vol. XXXIII, p. 46.
16. Viz. of Yao who reigned at T`ang, in Chili.
17. A famous author, more generally known by the name Liu Hsiang, 80-9 b.c., whose works we still possess.
18. A politician and scholar of the 3rd and 2nd cent. b.c., author of the "New Words" , the same as mentioned above p. 383 as envoy to the king of the southern Yüeh.
19. Cf. p. 139.
20. Another outlaw.
21. An author of the 2nd cent. b.c. who wrote the "Dew of the Spring and Autumn" which is still extant.
22. A quotation from Analects IV, 5, where we read that the superior man always cleaves to benevolence.
23. Who maintain that human nature is partly good and partly bad.
24. The text has which looks like a name:---the Record of Fêng Wên Mao. The fact, however, that a philosopher of the name of Fêng Wên Mao is unknown, and the symmetry of the context leads me to the conclusion that instead of we should read and translate, as I have done.
25. In prehistoric times China was divided into nine provinces, hence the term the Nine Provinces has become a synonym of China.
26. Cf. p. 381 Note 2.
27. The last sentences are repeated from p. 386.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|